LETTERS IN FREEDOM
I would like to try and tell you, through some chapters, the path made by the composer and his/her music until a movie is completed. My story is based on the most frequent questions asked by people interested in and curious about the relationship between music and cinema.
The fist step is the request to compose the score.
Normally in Italy, as there is no agent representing the composer, unlike other countries, the request comes from the director, or sometimes from a producer or a musical publisher. You may be contacted before shooting begins or while shooting or even after the movie has been shot. In this case you might suspect that someone else has been hired before you and then something has happened and you have been picked. In such cases, I have never investigated.
So, now you have accepted to work on this movie, because you like it, because the director is friendly, because you need money (this is a delicate topic). Let’s skip the bureaucratic part envisaging, before the contract, an overalla agreement among the production, the music publisher and your lawyer, if you have one, otherwise you do it on your own.
In the initial approach with your director you have learned, vaguely or in details, what kind of movie it is and what it describes, who the interpreters are and an idea of what kind of music has to be recorded in relation to the film post production.
Music is part of the post production stage, that is to say in the final part of the editing, when other works begin at the same time, normally the dubbing or re-dubbing of some actors, the sound (sound effects) and final mix, where everything is mixed together.
Then you meet the director. You have read the screenplay and you talk and talk and talk. You make hypothesis, have ideas, even the most absurd ones, just flowing freely. The director describes you several times the movie, completed or to be shot soon, always from different perspectives and always with a different attention focusing on specific concepts, sometimes even abstract ones…
These are the first important inputs impressing us and originating musical thoughts…
I think for instance about my meetings with Gianni Amelio, generous and vibrant teller. Just like Daniele Luchetti he is a kind of Ariel, graceful and very quick in matching music ideas and dramaturgic ideas.
I must specify that, to be understood in abstractly talking about music, when the composition has not been made yet, the director provides you with a music repertoire as examples. Therefore references to classic, pop, ethno music and so on are quite numerous. This is both a means and a method that can be precious to understand each other and create a common communication code where words are not enough. I think of Nanni Moretti, often reluctant and meditative both about his proposals and the ones he receives. Every director has his/her peculiarity when it comes to the music part. There is a specific way to communicate. The director is in symbiosis with the movie and soon you get to be part of it. Louis Malle used to say, about cinema composers: “I admire them unconditionally. You meet them and start talking about something that does not exist. After one month there is an orchestra and you listen to the music that did not exist before, the movie is finished, you feel moved, you are passionate, you are happy”.
And this, in a nutshell, is the core of the first contact with the movie.
I conclude this letter with a short glossary that can be useful in our meetings here.
Diegetic and non-diegetic music
“Opening credits” are the texts normally shown at the beginning of the film, before the movie begins, with interpreters, collaborators and the director’s name. Musically speaking, opening credits refer to the music track that accompanies the beginning of the movie and it is by itself a sort of little ouverture, a music-conceptual prelude where the movie character is outlined. But the choice not to use music on the credits texts is likewise important… About the choice of closing credits, with or without music, one could, and that would not be a bad idea, write an essay…
You can find below a selection of four sequences that are examples, to me, picked among many extraordinary Opening credits of the cinema history. From different times and styles. Two American and two Italian sequences.
Tell me if you are bored, so I can skip the next chapters. Let me know, please. Should you have specific questions, I will try to reply.
End of the first chapter.